Center Housing Immigrants Will Stay Open Despite License Battle

A facility used by the federal government to house asylum-seeking immigrant families will remain open amid a battle over its operating license.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services refused to renew the Berks County Residential Center's license, which expired Sunday. State authorities said the center's operation as a federal immigration facility is inconsistent with its licensing as a child residential center.

Berks County has appealed the ruling. Immigrant detainees will continue to be housed in the facility while the appeal is pending, said Khaalid Walls, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The center in Leesport, about 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, has been under contract with immigration authorities since 2001. It's one of three such facilities nationwide. The other two are in Texas.

Immigrant rights groups have been demanding an end to family detention, alleging medical neglect and other abuses. They called on state authorities Monday to shut down the Berks center immediately, before a ruling on the appeal.

Department of Human Services spokeswoman Kait Gillis said the center can continue to operate pending the appeal.

"We will cite regulatory violations, require submission and implementation of corrective action plans, take all other necessary steps to enforce compliance with regulatory requirements, and protect the health and safety of the residents," she said in a statement Monday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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